Matheson Lake Regional Park

Matheson Lake Regional Park in Metchosin is a forested area that features a cover of newer trees interspersed with old growth. Although the hillsides are mostly covered in younger trees, and there is evidence of old logging activity, this remains a beautiful spot. There are enough ancient holdovers from pre-logging days to keep you cycling or hiking along to find the next one.

Some of the trees in Matheson Lake Park are hundreds of years old. The newer forest has filled in and some second growth trees are getting large, too. If one were into bush whacking many more giant trees can be found hiding up the steep hillsides and screened by surrounding forest. I have read of such trees in obscure places on the Internet, and have tried finding some of them, but to no avail... so far.

The Galloping Goose Trail passes through the park, and is a good way to see the several wide Douglas-firs on both sides. Some have circumferences over 20 feet. There is also a smaller scenic 3.4 km trail that circles Matheson Lake. This trail undulates through thick forest and over steep hillsides and rocky outcrops.

The tree on the right is along the lake shore trail and caught my attention. It looks like someone in the past started to cut it down and changed their mind. It still bears the scar, although it is filling with sap and debris. This Douglas-fir tree is still living, and can be found at the west end of the lake just off the trail.

The Western red-cedar stump above shows more evidence of logging activity in the past. The notches are for springboards that loggers used to elevate themselves above the thickest part of the tree to make cutting easier. Now that the area is protected as a park we can allow the forest to develop unmolested. In a couple of hundred of years it will take on the characteristics of old growth.

There are large cedars along the lake shore trail, as well as Hemlock. At the right time of year you will also find many showy wildflowers gracing the hillsides.

Matheson Lake is stocked with trout and makes for a fun day of paddling and fishing. The lake has a nice pocket beach at the east end, and swimming is popular here. Salamander like to swim in these waters, too. On one visit I saw an endangered Western painted turtle. Watch for these amazing creatures as they group together to share a nap on a floating log.

Getting There

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Matheson Lake Regional Park is on the border between Sooke and Metchosin. It can be accessed from Rocky Point Rd by turning onto Matheson Lake Park Road and taking it to the end where there is a parking lot with connections to the Galloping Goose Trail as well as the Lakeshore Trail. Matheson Park is connected to Roche Cove Park, and can be accessed from the Roche Cove Parking off Gillespie Road. The Galloping Goose trail passes through Roche Cove Park, and on to Matheson. All side trails are clearly marked. As usual out here, watch for bears and cougars. Make noise as you hike.


Carmanah Rain Forest Canopy Research Station First Of Its Kind

Collecting moss in the Rain Forest Canopy Research Centre, Credit: Bob Herger

A common misconception is that when we cut old growth forests all we are taking is the trees. But when we clear cut forests we are decimating entire ecosystems. Old growth trees and forests provide habitat for thousands of species. Kill the trees and you kill most of the other species, too.

Until 1992 there had not been any systematic study of the northern temperate rain forest canopy - we had no idea of the diversity we were destroying. Then the Western Canada Wilderness Committee set up the first ever rain forest canopy research station in a cluster of 5 Sitka spruce over 60 m tall in the then threatened Carmanah Valley.

Volunteers built rope climbing systems to scale the great heights of the old trees. A variety of platforms at different spots up the trunks were set in place, and rope bridges were strung to connect them all together.

Since then researchers have collected over 3 million insects in this extensive study, and of the species that have been identified, 300 were new to science. This forest contains more biomass per square meter than any other forest on earth. Its richness is reflected in the research that has been done here.

It is evident that many living things require ancient forests that have not been disturbed for hundreds of years. Such a forest has mixed aged trees ranging from seedlings to massive old growth. Standing dead wood, and fallen trees on the ground provide habitat and nutrients for this web of life. But can't this delicate web be maintained in second growth forests that grow after the original forest is gone?

No. Second growth forests do not provide the structure and conditions old growth reliant species require. The Wilderness Committee says,
"The primary problem is that second-growth tree plantations and old-growth forests are very different. Unfortunately, the goal of B.C.’s forest management system is to replace our wild forests with tree farms that are clear cut after 40 to 120 years, long before they acquire old-growth features. Only by slowing down the excessive rate of cut and establishing large protected areas will we ensure that we always have ecologically viable tracts of ancient forests on Vancouver Island."
Some of the creatures that require the massive trees that grow in forests older than two or three hundred years are: spotted owls, salamanders, marbeled murrelets, salmon, bald eagles, many species of insects and spiders, as well as thousands of life forms not yet studied.

The Carmanah Valley Rain Forest Canopy Research Station is providing us with a glimpse into the deep, dark, and unknown forest. This ground-breaking research is showing us that eliminating most of Vancouver Island's forests and replacing them with even-aged tree plantations spells doom for the survival of many species.

No doubt we have already caused the extinction of many creatures that we will never know about. Let's save what is left. Say, "NO" to old growth logging in British Columbia, and around the world. We must ensure that we always have ecologically intact areas of ancient forests for everything that is dependent upon them... including us.


The World’s Oldest Individual Tree

Image: cwsteeds/flickr.

Although Vancouver Island and BC have some ancient trees, they are not the most ancient in the world. Of BC's trees, the Yellow-cedar is the longest living. It can grow for over 2000 years. But there are older trees around, including the world's oldest individual tree, a Great Basin bristlecone pine growing in California.

The twisted tree shown above is a bristlecone pine similar to Methuselah, which is 4800 years old. The location of the Methuselah tree is a closely guarded secret in order to protect this champion tree. It grows slowly in its harsh environment at 10, 000 feet.

Prometheus was even older at 5000 years. It was cut down in 1964.


VIBT Slide Show

I have added a new slide show button under the banner of VIBT. The slide show contains photographs and images used on this blog. I added the slide show to this post for your viewing pleasure. If you run your cursor over the bottom of the frame the controls will pop up. If you wish you can use the arrows to go at your own pace. Enjoy the big trees.


Rare Nanoose Douglas-fir Forest Not Protected In Recent Announcement

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Upper Goldstream Trail Old Growth Trees

There are 17 provincial parks within 50 km of British Columbia's capital city, and shady, mossy Goldstream Park is one of them. It occupies the Goldstream River valley 16 km north-west from Victoria. Yet, once immersed in the forest, you are transported back to a time when monumental trees were common. Goldstream is one of the most accessible spots to get up close and personal with Vancouver Island's famous big trees.

Goldstream Park is one of the Capital Region District's most popular parks. Thousands of visitors a year come to see the fall salmon run, and the eagles that gather in the hundreds to prey on their spawned out carcasses.

Others come for the 700 year old trees, and a taste of the grandeur of an ancient forest.

Upper Goldstream Trail is in the campground side of the park, and passes through some of the biggest and oldest trees. This easy 30 minute hike parallels the Goldstream River, and is surrounded by a high density of old growth trees. Huge conifers such as Douglas-fir, Western red-cedar, and Hemlock dot the small valley. Broad-leafed trees such as Big leaf maple, Arbutus, and Black cottonwood are also represented in the park.

It was very hot the day I walked through the park approaching the Upper Goldstream trail head. The trail winds its way up the river valley alongside Goldstream River, which is criss-crossed by huge fallen trees. Large ferns cover the forest floor, and lichens drip from ancient branches. Sunlight penetrates the dark of the forest in brilliant shafts, nurturing the saplings that will eventually replace the old trees.

The temperature dropped several degrees after I entered the forest. All around the forest looked shaggy, drippy and green. Moss and lichen hung everywhere.

Some of these massive trees are 600 - 700 years old. It is an amazing feeling to be surrounded by these sky scraping monuments. The vertical scale is all out of whack.

What is it about these ancient entities that draws us to them? Somehow their stillness, strength, and defiance of temporal boundaries works its magic on us. We are humbled at the base of their wide, wrinkly trunks. We love them, admire them, and are astounded by them.

Increasingly we are able to recognize their irreplaceable importance, too. That someone in the past thought that this forest was worth protecting is a boon to all of us now. The old growth forests we save today will be appreciated and enjoyed by future generations.

Large diameter woody debris lay all around, and enormous standing snags provide feeding stations and bird condos 20 stories tall. In this forest all ages of trees are represented, from seedlings to seniors. It is here that we find the greatest diversity of life - it just does not compare with second growth tree plantations that are all one age of trees, and are sprayed with herbicide to make the fiber farms more 'productive' and profitable.

The Douglas-fir and Western red-cedar are the largest trees along the trail. Along with Hemlock, the hiker will find enough old trees to keep you looking up and astounded.

No proper Vancouver Island old growth trail would be complete without the 'walk through the fallen log' feature, and the Upper Goldstream trail does not disappoint.

Eventually the trail leads to Goldstream River Falls. Cool, fresh water rushes and tumbles down the steep valley. Florescent green moss covers everything, and ferns luxuriate in the wet, humid micro-climate. It is this clean, cold water that keeps the salmon run going after thousands of years.

Upper Goldstream Trail is the most accessible old growth forest closest to Victoria. While in this forest you get the illusion that you are in an ecologically intact area - an area where nature and the forest rule. Alas, though, Goldstream Park is surrounded by development and encroachment continues unabated. This valley is unfortunately much smaller than it initially feels.

Although I didn't see anyone the day I hiked, this trail is heavily used. The forest floor has been trampled by visitors that know not the importance of staying on the designated path. However, it remains an impressive remnant of old forest and gives the visitor a good idea of what it must have been like on the south island before 98% of the Coastal Douglas-fir zone was razed in massive clear cuts.

Need a retreat from the city? Goldstream Provincial Park is a good place to get away from it all, just minutes from downtown. If you squint a bit, and pretend there aren't houses just up over there, you can get lost for a while in this lush, green place.

Getting There

Goldstream Provincial Park is located about 16km from Victoria. To get to the Upper Goldstream Trail head follow Highway 1 (Trans Canada Hwy.) north. Take the Westshore Parkway turnoff to Amy Road, then Sooke Lake Road to Golden Gate Road, which descends into the campground section of the park. There is only pay parking in the park so I park at the top across the street from the pub and walk in.

The entrance to the day use area is further along Highway 1, then turn right at Finlayson Arm Road. There are nice Western red-cedar here, as well as huge Black cottonwoods along the Goldstream River. Note: The access to the park's day use area is along busy Highway 1. Exercise extreme caution when entering and leaving this busy area.

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Extreme Fire Hazard In B.C. Forests

The burning red sunsets that we have been having lately on Vancouver Island are a reminder of fires burning in the interior of the province. Although no fires have been reported on the island, smoke from the mainland has drifted over our skies making for some spectacular evening light shows.

Our temperate rain forest essentially has two seasons - the wet rainy winter season, and the hot dry summer season. During most years the forest dries up over the extended sunny summer. Older trees on the island usually show evidence of fire scars on their bark. In some wetter areas on the coast, forests have avoided large fires for up to two thousand years!

Currently all of Vancouver Island is experiencing an extreme fire hazard, and authorities are reminding everyone that we can help prevent needless fires. A campfire ban has been in effect for a while now, and smoking is being discouraged in the back country.

It is hot and dry out there - perfect for enjoying some camping and hiking in the trees. Please be careful. Our forests are depending on it.

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